WILLIE HINES INTERVIEW:
June 12, 2004
Willie Hines is best known for his work as vocalist and guitarist for Jet Red. Sadly, Jet Red only released one album before the changing musical tides swept them, and so many others from that genre, away. Willie agreed to talk about his Jet Red days as well as his future musical plans.
SR: Most people reading this will remember you for your work with Jet Red. How did that band come together?
WH: Jet Red was initially formed in 1984 in Modesto, California. Mike “Fro” Frowein (Lynch/Pilson, Lynch Mob, War & Peace) on drums and myself on guitar and vocals. The two of us woodshedded in a warehouse for about a year and had about a dozen solid songs, so we started looking for players. Originally, Mark Ross (Eric Martin Band) came along on guitar. He and I have been friends since high school and he’s a great guy so it was easy. Brad Lang (now with War & Peace, too) joined on bass a bit later. Russell Van Norman joined on keyboards and the band was born.
SR: When Jet Red was starting out as a club band, who were some of the bands you crossed paths with? Any bands that you thought had tremendous potential?
WH: Our first gig of any repute was opening for a band called City Kidd in Sacramento at the Oasis Ballroom. We all became pretty good friends and they became Tesla. We hooked up with Ronnie Montrose’s management and toured with Ronnie for a while, and then when I moved to San Francisco in ’86 we were always playing with Y&T; again, guys we’d known since high school days when they were Yesterday and Today. New Years Eve of that year we opened for Poison and Y&T. In early ’87 Brad and I contributed background vocals to former Supertramp singer/songwriter Roger Hodsons’ second solo album “Hai Hai”.
SR: The band was eventually signed to Relativity/Combat, how did that come about? That label was more known for its roster of thrash metal bands; did it worry you that they wouldn’t know what to do with a band like Jet Red?
WH: In 1988 we had recorded enough decent songs on demos that we started shopping for a deal. Key players included Jesse Bradman (Aldo Nova, Night Ranger) who not only got us Billy Carmassi but also some studio time and one Marty Friedman on guitar. Needless to say, that lineup was killer. Although things definitely didn’t work out over time, I did spend a few weeks fielding phone calls at home from one Gene Simmons who wanted us to launch his $immons label (he opted for House Of Lords). The less said about those conversations the better, although I know that Gene loves our song “I Surrender” from the unreleased second album.
Creighton Burke climbed on board as manager (now he represents MXPX) after a stint with Joe Satriani working the “Surfing With The Alien” album. That’s where the Relativity connection comes in. They had just linked up with Sony, so it looked promising. See, there were two factions at Relativity. One was the shred-fest, dark, attitude bands that came out on the Combat imprint (Death, Shotgun Messiah, etc.) and then there was the lighter side (Dancing Hoods, Scruffy The Cat, etc). Relativity’s Vice President loved our band; he saw us as the labels’ Def Leppard – a potential crossover hard rock band with hit songs, which is why “Not The Only One” was pegged as the leadoff single. We wanted “Lonely”. Oh well. Then he was involved in a serious car crash, which resulted in his leaving the company. That left acting president Barry Kobrin in charge, who HATED us, and that’s why the album cover art is what it is (you should have seen what we submitted) and why the album was shelved mere months after release.
SR: What was the recording process for the debut like?
WH: We recorded the album at Studio D in Sausalito, a wonderful place with amazing acoustics, a BIG drum room and extremely helpful people. Our producer, Brian Foraker, had just gone out on his own from a long tenure with Keith Olson, and since he had done the self-titled Whitesnake album, we were excited. I love David Coverdale’s vocals, always have. Anyway, Brian had to stop the recording to return to L.A. for personal reasons, and so some overdubs were done at the Record Plant in Sausalito. All in all, great fun, until we heard the final mix that Brian did without our input. Looking back now, it seems to me that Brian put his attention on the “radio” songs and gave them a fair shake, but pretty much did a rough mix on all the heavier tunes and left it at that. I mean, we cried when we heard it, and they weren’t tears of joy.
SR: Who decided on the artwork for the debut, it seemed rather uninspired?
WH: It’s funny now, but that cover was like a middle finger from Relativity art director David Bett, because we initially rejected his ideas and had come up with a few ideas of our own. It’s only funny because we made Top Ten Worst Album Covers Of The Year in Metal Edge magazine in ’89 along with Tesla’s “Great Radio Controversy” and Enuff Z’Nuff’s debut, and it wasn’t our cover choice!
SR: Why did Billy Carmassi leave the band, and how did you come across Mick brown’s brother Steve to replace him?
WH: After Relativity killed the record in the States (it was selling in Japan), Billy jumped ship and we went back to Sacramento, where we found little Stevie Brown. I have to say that all these years later Stevie is still one of my best friends and one of the greatest guys in the world AND the baddest drummer! He’s currently with a local band Honeyspot and gigs with Oleander when they’re on the road. He’s the drummer on my first solo album, “Yeahright”.
SR: What bands did you tour with while promoting the debut, and how did they treat you?
WH: Our first shows after the album was released were with Joe Satriani, who was working on his “Flying In A Blue Dream” album. I remember at the Wiltern Theatre in L.A. having a great show, and then going out to dinner the following night. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to being in awe of the company. I’m in an Indian restaurant sitting in-between Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, and Allan Holdsworth. I couldn’t eat, Skid! Afterwards, Carmassi and I and Brad went out drinking with Allan, who is about as nice a guy as they come. Great times.
Later on, since we didn’t have tour support, we ended up opening for all the west coast metal bands when they came through town: Quiet Riot, Tuff, Britny Fox, Jeff Watson’s projects (another old high school days buddy) and stuff like that. Let’s see, who else? Pat Travers, Molly Hatchet, RTZ (Brad Delp is another real soul), Rick Derringer, etc. Most of the shows were big fun, although we thought it was pretty funny when some of the bands would ask us what kind of sampler we were using for our vocals!
SR: A second album was recorded but never released, why was it shelved?
WH: Ah yes, the long rumoured “lost album”. The follow-up was self produced and done at both Prarie Sun Studios in Cotati (Marin County) and Selective Frequencies in Sacramento. By this time we were sharing rehearsal space and management with the Deftones, and the music scene was shifting rapidly. We shopped it to anybody who would listen, but by then Seattle was all over the airwaves, so….
SR: The recordings for that album seem to be heavier, was it a change in direction for the band or a more representative sound?
WH: You nailed that one, Skid! The second album was our response to the flat sound of the first. We produced it ourselves and knew what we wanted and tried to capture our live sound, which was always heavier than our recordings.
SR: There was talk of Jet Red II being released by Metal Mayhem, what is happening with that?
WH: Originally I received a phone call from Ryan Northrup at Metal Mayhem about three years ago. Apparently John Heald, the drummer for DeAllen and a good friend of mine, traded a copy of the unreleased second album with Ryan, who then got hold of me, expressing interest in releasing the album. At the time, I wasn’t sure what to do with the album. The timing didn’t feel right at the time. Popular culture goes in cycles and what goes around comes around eventually, so I figured, y’know, give it a couple of years. Ryan has been quite persistent over the years, I’ll give him that. Still, the album’s release date, up to now, has been quite uncertain. However, it has come to my attention, thanks to some very loyal people who surf a lot on the web, that there is a bootleg version circulating out there. I got a call today from Mark over at Z Records in the U.K. who has found numerous copies. The one I saw – and then subsequently yanked – on Ebay looks professional, but it is unauthorized. I still have the master tapes, man! And for the record, I HATE that bootleg cover – it looks like an auto parts store calendar! Anyway, all I can say is that the album will get an official release, I promise.
SR: What led to the decision to disband Jet Red?
WH: We decided to call it quits once we saw where the music was going, knowing that we just weren’t depressed or pissed off enough to participate in the new scene. At least everybody parted as good friends; if we had continued on, we would have imploded out of sheer frustration.
SR: Did you do anything musically from this time up until your solo release in 2000?
WH: After a series of legitimate farewell shows that were wonderful albeit emotional, I basically sat back and started writing from a personal perspective, trying to find a place for the music I was hearing. Needless to say, it took awhile! I listened to a lot of music, woodshedded a bit on the guitar, bought a record store, and here I am!
SR: 2000 saw the release of your first solo album “Yeahright.” Is the sound comparable to Jet Red, and do you think hard rock fans will enjoy it?
WH: My first solo CD, “Yeahright”, is more autobiographical than commercial; a lot of things I wanted to express musically, I guess. There’s a tribute to blues legend Albert King on it that’s a bit out of character for me, a few instrumentals, some field recording segues, and some good ol’ fashioned rock. Lots of vocals, that’s for sure. It’s more Tom Petty than Van Halen, if you want a comparison.
SR: For those that are interested in the solo release, how would they go about purchasing it?
WH: If anybody wants a copy, they can e-mail me, and all I ask is $12.00, and that includes shipping and handling.
SR: I was surprised to see you show up on the Enuff Z’Nuff tribute, how did you get involved and were you a fan?
WH: Yeah, the tribute! I’m a big Chip and Donnie fan as far as songwriting goes, and those first two albums are near perfect. I’m sorry about Derek Frigo, man. Rest in peace, brother. Kerry at CD Smash posted requests for contributions, and we had always done a short acoustic set in the Jet Red days, and “I Could Never Be Without You” was always included. So, I took Johnny Feikert from the first Jet Red album, fretless bassist John Williams and went into Velvetone Studios in Sacramento and tracked, mixed, and sent it off in four hours! I’m quite pleased with the result. I hope Donnie liked it.
SR: Do you currently have a band that does occasional live gigs?
WH: Yeah, gotta play out, Skid! I do local shows whenever they present themselves. I gotta get this second album done, though; it’s half finished, and I’m really happy so far. It’s heavier, and, I suppose, potentially commercial. I’ll let you know when I’m done!
SR: You also work in a music store (Replay Records), has anything been released lately that has knocked you off your feet?
WH: Recent faves? The Fire Theft debut, the Primitive Radio Gods latest “Still Electric”, “Musicology” by Prince…oh yeah, my current fave is Ryan Adams’ “Rock And Roll” album! I wish I’d written “Burning Photographs”, man!
SR: What are your thoughts on the state of rock these days? Will the FCC and big business radio hurt creativity?
WH: The current state of music in the days of Dubya? Bleak, man, bleak. Actually, great music is still out there waiting to be discovered, it’s just that you won’t find it listening to commercial radio, watching music video stations, or anything related to Clear Channel. That’s one of the true values of the internet. Like-minded people can communicate to each other and seek out the good stuff, and pass that information on to others. Otherwise, we’d all be lined up at a Walmart waiting for our next flavor of the month, y’know?
SR: What can fans look forward to from Willie Hines in the future?
WH: I hope to get this second solo CD out this year, as well as that second Jet Red album. Life is good. Music is good. That about covers it, Skid. I want to thank you for doing this, man. I appreciate your taking the time to talk with me, and for letting me get some of the facts out about a pretty good band that didn’t get a fair shake. Yeah, I know, join the club. Still, thanks again, Skid. Peace.
Thanks to Willie Hines